While Covishield is approved, the UK is yet to recognise India's vaccine certificate issued by CoWin.

Health worker about to inject COVID vaccine
news Covid-19 test Wednesday, September 22, 2021 - 16:53

The UK government has approved Astrazeneca’s India-manufactured Covishield as a qualified vaccine, but is yet to recognise the CoWin vaccine certificate issued by India. This means that Indian nationals fully vaccinated with Covishield will still have to undergo mandatory quarantine and RT-PCR tests on reaching the UK.

The move, which does not change much for Indians, comes after the Indian government warned of ‘reciprocal action’ if the UK did not recognise and add Covishield to its list of qualified vaccines. On Wednesday, September 22, the UK government did release a new advisory in which Covishield is listed as a qualified vaccine. Formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines, reads the advisory from the UK's Department for Transport (DfT) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

However, India does not figure in the list of countries whose vaccinations have been approved under the revised rules (due to the CoWin certification process). The release explains that from 4 am on October 4, all people who have taken vaccines from a ‘relevant public health body’ in the listed countries will be considered ‘vaccinated’. India has not made it to this list of countries.

According to reports quoting multiple government sources, the UK is in discussions with India to clear technical problems with regard to approving CoWin certification. The British High Commission, in its statement on Tuesday said that it is working with India to get the vaccine certification recognised. 

Meanwhile Indian authorities have argued that the CoWin system is entirely free of technical flaws and is World Health Organisation-compliant. Speaking to NDTV, RS Sharma, CEO of the National Health Authority said that the UK High Commissioner visited him on September 2, to better understand the CoWin portal and its technical aspects. 

Vaccine certification in India is managed through a centralised system run by the CoWin app and portal. 

Last week, the UK announced that it is doing away with the different lists and sticking with ‘Red list’ countries and the rest of the world. Those coming from countries in the rest list to the UK will have to take a pre-departure RT PCR test (within 72 hours of date of arrival), self-quarantine for 10 days and undergo tests on the second and eighth day of arrival. Quarantine will be removed as a requirement for fully vaccinated persons travelling from the approval list of countries. 

India is currently in the amber list of countries and it is unclear if India will be put back in the red list. Currently, Indian nationals including students have to take COVID-19 tests on the second and eighth day of arrival, prior to departure and also self-quarantine for 10 days. A privately paid-for "Test to Release" option does exist at day five, which allows an early end to the 10-day quarantine with a negative PCR test.

India warns of reciprocal action

On Tuesday, when the UK government was yet to approve Astrazeneca Covishield, the Indian government warned of reciprocal action citing discriminatory practices. 

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, “Here is a vaccine – Covishield – which is a licensed product of a UK company manufactured in India, of which we have supplied five million doses to the UK at the request of the government of the UK. We understand that this has been used in their national health system. Therefore, non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminatory policy and does impact those of our citizens travelling to the UK,” Shringla said.

Meanwhile External Affairs Minister S Jaisankar met UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York and tweeted that India “Urged early resolution of the quarantine issue in mutual interest.”

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.